BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer locked eyes across a fish tank. The blue glow of bubbling water, artificial light, and the blue glow of the fish tank illuminated the two women, who slowly registered their feelings with each other with puzzlement and hostility. Across three seasons of “Killing Eve,” the two actresses and the show’s creative team have worked to master the complex bond between their two characters, and there it was, distilled in a single “Romeo + Juliet”-inspired moment.
The shot was then destroyed by a fish.
“Dude!” Oh exclaimed, still exasperated months later. The fish, which show up in the first episode of the show’s fourth and final season, were exceedingly “difficult,” Comer explained, laughing.
“One just swam right through and literally blocked both eyes,” she said. “I was like, ‘Guys, I can’t work with this fish.’”
Audiences won’t find out if the former MI6 agent Eve (played by Oh) and the globetrotting assassin Villanelle (Comer) are fated to wind up like Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers until the series finale of “Killing Eve” airs this spring. (The first eight episodes will air on Sunday on BBC America, Monday on AMC, and the second two on Sunday on AMC+.
The show was a hit from the start in 2018, when it premiered. Oh also serves the executive producer. She has been nominated to three Emmys. (In 2019, she won the Golden Globe. Comer was also nominated for multiple Emmys and won the award in 2019. Like many other projects, the new season was delayed by pandemic-era shooting problems.
Offscreen, the mutual obsession the actresses embody in “Killing Eve” gives way to mutual affection and respect. On a cold February morning they sat down next to me at a Peninsula Hotel patio table, exchanging with ease and respect. They were colleagues who have seen each other at the top of their craft.
Comer, who speaks softly Liverpudlian, quickly swapped the patent midi skirt she wore for an earlier photo shoot for a more comfortable pair. Her face was still framed by her dagger-like earrings. The Ottawa-raised Oh relaxed in a seersucker jacket, billowy trousers and sipped from her trusted drink bottle. This was to keep track of her hydration throughout. (On set, Oh had earned a reputation for being a one-woman “hydration station,” Comer said, with multiple vessels nearby at all times.)
These are edited excerpts taken from our conversation.
What was your reaction when you learned how “Killing Eve” would end?
JODIE COMER It’s mixed emotions. I was kinda stunned. The best thing about filming the ending was that we were all together on set, which made it even more special. I don’t know how I feel about the ending, truth be told.
SANDRA, OHIt was, in my opinion, quite victorious. I believe we stayed true both to the characters as well as to each other.
What was the moment you discovered the fate of your characters’ fates?
OHIt was still a work in process. There were some discussions that took place very early on. Then the pandemic hit and certain things were changed. As we were building it, the discovery took place. That’s as specific and as broad as I can say.
It’s the season finale that I feel we spend the most quality time together. Because it’s just correct and ready for the characters to be able ——
COMERCE To be in that space together.
Do you feel like this was the right place to end?
OH It is, because this is what’s happening. A lot of people describe this as a “cat and mouse,” and I understand that within the first season. But I’ve got to tell you, if you’re going to continue describing it like that you haven’t watched the show. That’s too easy. The show is about exploring the female psyche, and how these two characters need each other. It was the right moment to end after all that digging in the context a certain type thriller.
COMERCE It’s the trickiest thing to execute, you know? The goal is to move the characters forward in an honest way, but keep all the parts that people love. It is a very personal relationship for each person who sees it.
And the show doesn’t put a label on Eve and Villanelle’s relationship.
COMERCE I find it quite difficult when people are like, “What is this relationship?” It’s so hard to put a name on that.
OH I find that this type of question is becoming more restrictive. It should be as broad as possible. I’m not gonna tell you nothin’. Because it doesn’t matter.
COMERCIAL Sandra and I don’t speak a lot [to each other] about what we’re doing before we get to set. It feels good when it feels good. So we’re constantly making those discoveries ourselves.
OH That’s some of the best stuff in what we do in filmmaking. You can set up certain circumstances and then something unscripted will happen, and that’s actually what to follow.
How has it changed the showrunner role each season? [Phoebe Waller-Bridge, followed by Emerald Fennell, Suzanne Heathcote and Laura Neal]Which factors have influenced the series as an entire?
COMERCE Each person brings their own thoughts and feelings about the characters. What I’ve enjoyed about that is the opportunity to sit at a table with everyone and really discuss and unravel what it is that feels true. To be included in those conversations, it’s been amazing. Prior to “Killing Eve,” it’s like, you show up to set, you learn your lines, you do your job and you go home.
OH It’s been the biggest avenue of growth. Because it’s very challenging. If you’re a sausage maker, you know that that’s a challenging way to make sausage. But that sparks a natural place of friction, and that can be very creative.
Are there any things on your bucket list you would like to accomplish in the final season?
OH I was allowed to wear a hair wig!
COMERCE Oh, yeah! I remember when I saw that picture I was like, “Damn, Sandra.”
OHI was able to wear two different wigs! I was able to wear a dress! I was so excited, that my wardrobe expanded.
COMERCEThere was a feeling that a fire had been put out. I wanted to get it back because I knew we were almost done. I wanted to see a little of the Villanelle that we once knew. I was like, “I want her back, badder then ever.” She has been on this journey with her moral compass, humanity, and humanity.
OH Because a scorpion’s nature cannot change.
Do you remember saying that?
COMERCE Yeah. Those conversations were always open, like, “Is there anything that maybe didn’t resonate with you or something that you want to expand on?” There was never something I couldn’t bring up.
What this show has always encouraged, especially about finding Villanelle, was, “Try something!” If it’s silly, if it’s over the top, if it doesn’t work, it’s fine.” There’s such a freeness that I have definitely taken on.
So many of your line readings are completely unexpected, and I’ll think, ‘Did she just do that in the moment?’
COMERCE I feel like I’m often just flying by the seat of my pants.
COMER: Is that the truth? Is that the saying?
OH No, no, no, no. “Seat of your pants” is correct.
When “Killing Eve” premiered in April 2018, the world was in a different place. We were still in the middle Trump presidency but pre-industrial. What do you think the show has done to adapt to the changing landscape? And what have viewers seen it offer?
OH That’s a tricky question because I don’t want to say what it is. When we did come out, it was post-#MeToo, post-beginning of Time’s Up. It was a very magical, fortuitous period. The majority of the creative minds were women, and this was why storytelling was centered around women. We were able give the world a gift. It was also stylistically very fresh. Conceptually, it was new. Other changes regarding the pandemic and the shifts politically, that’s up to the audience.
COMERCIAL I feel like it’s sometimes pure escapism.
As viewers get to see Europe, while being stuck at home during the pandemic.
COMERCE Covid meant that we had to cheat quite a bit this season.
OH That’s a terrible reveal, but it’s so true.
COMERCE The set design and art department had to work together to recreate the locations we were visiting. Everyone had to be creative.
Are you able to shoot outside of Britain?
OH This is a sad fact. But it is what is. We’re shooting during the pandemic, blah, blah, blah.
What did your last day of work look like?
OH We can only say that we were together.
OHWe were probably also together. [Laughs.]
COMERCE Very well.
OH It was intense for me. It was very difficult.
Is that fish tank scene in the Season 4 premiere an intentional homage to Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet”?
OHYes. We thought about doing it hand-in-hand, and we didn’t hesitate to mention certain films. Like when Eve is following Hélène [Camille Cottin], and she’s in that blonde wig, I remember talking to Stella Corradi, our director, about Faye Wong in “Chungking Express.” I was like, “I want to look like her.” I love the richness of bringing in the history of images and how they can fit into our story.
Looking back, what does the awards recognition you received for “Eve” mean to you?
COMERCE I remember going to the Golden Globes that first year, and Sandra won and we were all just like, “This is amazing!” It felt like such a celebration. There is no denying that there are moments of satisfaction, but the real fulfillment comes from doing the work.
OH These trophies are beautiful and very nice. However, their significance changes as you advance in your career. We achieved something together. It’s concrete. It can’t be taken away from us. And most of all, the growth, confidence, maturity, expansion, everything that got us here, can’t be taken away. It’s those things that take up much more meaning and space.